Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Thriller Lexington 2007

Alrighty, undead!

We just had YEAR SIX of Thriller: Live in the Streets of Downtown Lexington, and it was probably the greatest yet. Over 100 zombies. 3 Michael Jacksons. And about 3000 people downtown to watch. Even an appearance by Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

It's hard to underscore what a great event this is, what a great community art event — but I want to try. Mecca Live Studio is the organization that conceived of this and makes it happen. Certainly, other organizations — notably WRFL-FM and LFCUG Parks and Rec — are to be mentioned, too.

But it's funny — this "dancing Thriller" concept has become oddly widespread and is done all over the place: in prison, even. For that matter, some enterprising, promotionally-minded people even opted this year to try for a Guinness Book world record by coordinating Thriller dancers around the world through a web site. And yes, Lexington dancers participated in this event, called Thrill the World.

But that felt odd to me, and here's why I feel the need to shout out to the Mecca peeps, especially Mel, TT, and Jeff. I feel an inner certainty saying this, but can't prove it: I think they did it first. If they didn't do it first, they did it nearly first. And I want to say "we" instead of "they," because the Mecca peeps are some of the most dedicated community artists that I ever expect to know; but still I want them to get credit. Ironically, even more than they want credit, I might venture.

So even if I can't prove it, I wanted to say it: Thanks to Mecca for such a cool thing. It's great fun that people are doing this all over the place. It's community art, pure and simple. There's no admission, no big commercial sponsorship, nothing but everyday people who want to learn a great dance and get out and put on a show watched by thousands. How cool is that?

Thank you, Mecca. For your humble and friendly greatness.

Video of this year's Thriller is starting to appear. There's already this one. And this one. And there are more video cameras and photographers downtown every year. So while you're waiting for more youtube and flickr posts, go see what a great thing we've got going on by looking at past years.

Previous videos: 2005, 2002 and 2006. Some of my pix from previous years 2006 and 2005.

I'm working on editing the new pix and will put them up soon.

PS: This also shouldn't go without saying: Thanks to Michael Jackson, John Landis, Vincent Price and all the fantastic dancers and production people that have amazingly cemented Thriller into our collective memory.

smalltown officing

Latest office
Originally uploaded by mrtoastey
Out on the road with Lucy today, in Mt. Sterling, Ky. This is a neat way to do business. She goes on sales calls, I find a hot spot. Failing all else (coffee shops, lawyers stoops) there's usually the public library. Mt. Sterling is a funny little dollhouse town. Meaning, it's full of fastidiously maintained early 20th century colonials. Otherwise, there seems to be an abundance of bars for such a little place. And the rest is antique stores and tanning places.* Also: it's the home of our dipshit governor who will be voted out of office with godspeed a week from today.

*'tanning places' remark was completely uncalled-for, possibly even false. As a peace offering, I would like to point out that their library has a surprisingly large collection of Gore Vidal novels.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Eulogy for Black Betty

Originally uploaded by mrtoastey
We lost Betty today.

Betty was a wonderful, cantankerous, glaring long-haired cat that Lucy has had since years before we met and of whom I was very fond. She was first and foremost a hunter. I initially became enamored with Betty over her behavior at Lucy's place on 6th Street. Betty loved the outdoors; and while she did include cat food in her diet, she generally would only consent to come indoors for an interim snack. Dead of Winter or heat of Summer, Betty preferred to be outside at nearly all hours.

One of my favorite memories of Betty concerns the large glass door that opened onto Lucy's back yard; Betty would often sit there on the outside and stare inside. Early on in our relationship (with Lucy or Betty, take your pick), I would open the door, thinking she was wanting in. She would turn and bolt away. I gradually learned that Betty only wanted to observe us caged creatures. She vastly preferred the wilds.

I don't think I've ever lost an animal like we lost Betty. In the past, they've gotten hit, or ran away or some other form of, um, absentee death. We think Betty had a stroke or thrown clot. We came home to find her semi-crouched in the kitchen, occupying a single spot. This wasn't exactly unusual behavior for Betty— one of my favorite eccentricities about this soft black cat was her habit of staking out some random spot — and then occupying it vehemently, sometimes for days. Frequently, you would just have to walk around her, depending on the spot. One time, the spot was my pillow, but that was one of the few times that she was unseated by me. Repeatedly, I must add.

This evening was clearly different and we took her immediately to the animal hospital; after some compassionate consultation from the Vet, I sat with Betty and stroked her soft furry black head while she was put to sleep.

I've cried a lot tonight over Betty because I loved her. I loved her absolute disdain for the trappings of comfort and domesticity. While she lived with humans, she never particularly deigned to be much other than a prowler. I respected that. Betty would come in, but mostly she was going out. She liked to be OUT, and as a token of respect, we will bury her somewhere out. In The Wilds.

Black BettyI didn't know we were going to lose Betty today. I keep thinking this. I don't know why. I don't think I could have changed it, I don't feel guilty, I just puzzle in the crevices and chasms of grief and how it works.

I didn't know this morning after a welcome few hours of sleep recovering from the Mountain Workshops.

I didn't know during an unusually cheerful visit to KET.

I didn't know during a delightful trip with Lucy to Winchester.

And I didn't know while we crashed the pool at the Marriott. I didn't know that such a wonderful day would end in tears. And it's okay, really— It'll be okay. I just didn't know. I 'm reminded that we cannot really predict or prepare for these things. I just want to be present when they happen. I think these are some of the most important times in Life.

Epilogue: Betty, I'm told, was properly called "Black Betty Bam-Ba-Lam," after an old blues song. To this day, I'm not sure that I know it. But I knew Betty. We understood each other, and while she was a remarkable crank, she was also a delight to me and I will miss her, as will Lucy and the rest of our household.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


MOUNTAIN WORKSHOPS 2007 is kicking my ass. But it's been a good ass-kicking. I trust that I'll be able to profit at least a little from the presence of several National Geographic shooters as well as a couple Pulitzer prize winners and a host of world-class newspaper photojournalists. But ouch! Critique hurts!

The support staff here is hard at work doing all manner of things, only some of which I understand, some of which have to do with extremely new Macs, and some of which have to do with the website. The full site isn't up yet; Last year's MW site was up until about a week ago, and now I see why— the site is a testament to the work that is currently being done and it is contantly evolving.

That having been said, click the link above and wait for a picture to load. After it does, hit "reload" and another will load. And that's what's going on here at Mountain Workshops 2007. Yay.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Getting that excited-but-can't-breathe feeling again as I prepare to embark upon my second hardcore photojournalism camp experience: It's the 2007 MOUNTAIN WORKSHOP!

I've very excited, possibly even concerned; I guess my fear is that this expedition isn't going to have the same warm-fuzzy feeling of the Maine Workshops.

But I'm hoping…

There was some kind of magic in Rockport that absolutely moved me to a level of focus and concentration that I rarely experience. And while, in my heart, I expect the same out of Mountain Workshop and hope that it's not modivated by merciless critiques. I didn't go to art school. I think if I had, I might handle critiques better. But wow, I'm sensitive. I hope I can get over that, regardless.

It's a great workshop, by all accounts. One of the odd things, though, for me is that it's in Danville this year, barely an hour away, which is pretty different from the pilgrimage I made to the Maine Workshops a couple of months ago. Still— people are coming from all over the country, including a few of my heroes from Maine.

Strangely, I also feel like I'm making up for a 25-year-old faux pas: When I was about 14, I got to go to Western Kentucky University's Yearbook and Newspaper camp for high school students. I went as a photographer and was coming from the perspective of being photo editor of both publications several years running at my school. What happened kind of still bothers me; basically, I was cocky as shit. And I was surprised and unnerved to find out that there were better—and younger and more experienced—photographers there than me. Easily. It rattled me and I ended up not paying the kind of attention that I could have and thus not learning too much. As odd as it might sound, I'd like to make up for that at Mountain Workshop. Why Mountain Workshop, you might wonder? Well, because it's put on by … Western Kentucky University.

Maybe I can lay this old demon to rest.

Gore wins Nobel Peace Prize for climate campaign - Times Online

Does it seem weird to anybody else that Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize
is getting so little press coverage here in the US? How disappointing. What an amazing achievement in these times.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Monday, October 01, 2007


Oscar loves to bark. Barking is usually preceded by growling, indicating an imminent intention of barking. Generally, I discourage excessive barking. But sometimes it is encouraged.

This is one of those times. (click on the picture for authentic barking action)